There are two ways to look at the field for the $600,000 Alabama (gr. I): It could be a disappointment that the nation’s top 3-year-old filly, Rachel Alexandra, is not included in the field. Or, a more optimistic view would be that many of the talented fillies entered for the prestigious race are only there because Rachel Alexandra is not in the field.
Whatever the outlook, a solid field of eight was entered for the 1 1/4-mile event at Saratoga Aug. 22, and they will all look to take a step toward establishing themselves as the second best sophomore filly in the land. Post time is set for 5:47 p.m. for Saratoga’s feature.
Among those in the mix for the Alabama title are the top four finishers from the July 25 Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at Belmont, including the winner, Funny Moon, as well as graded stakes winners last out, Be Fair and Careless Jewel, the latter of which has scored three straight victories.
Owned by Mrs. C. Wilson McNeely III, Funny Moon came from off the pace with a wide stretch move and got up by a neck over Don't Forget Gil in the American Oaks, which was also at 1 1/4 miles. A daughter of Malibu Moon—Fun Crowd, by Easy Goer, Funny Moon fared much better in that race than she did in her stakes debut when finishing eighth in the June 6 Acorn (gr. I) after a troubled trip.
Prior to the American Oaks, trainer Christophe Clement raised Funny Moon’s confidence by placing her in an optional claiming event on July 3, where she romped by more than eight lengths. Overall, the chestnut filly is 4-1-0 from six starts.
Funny Moon, who was bred in Kentucky by Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Stautberg, will break from post 3 with regular rider Alan Garcia aboard.
Alan Brodsky’s Don’t Forget Gil had traffic troubles in the American Oaks but still nearly won the event at odds of 15-1. The Kafwain filly, who was also runner-up in the April 11 Comely (gr. II) at Aqueduct, scored her lone graded stakes victory at Tampa Bay Downs in the March 13 Florida Oaks (gr. III). The New York-bred has trained well up to the Alabama, including a sizzling :46.86 four-furlong bullet work Aug. 7 on the Oklahoma training track. Rajiv Maragh will ride for trainer Mark Hennig.
“She seems like she’s turned it up a notch over the summer,” Hennig said, “and she relishes the extra ground. I would definitely fear her. It will be competitive; every grade I is.”
Donver Stable’s Careless Jewel will likely be a pacesetter in the Alabama, and she has done quite well on the front end in each of her past three starts. The daughter of Tapit broke her maiden and then scored a 7 1/4-length allowance win on the Woodbine Polytrack earlier this summer before going gate-to-wire while romping by that same distance in the Delaware Oaks (gr. II) July 18 on the dirt.
Trained by Josie Carroll, Careless Jewel was a $40,000 Keeneland September 2007 yearling purchase. She has already earned $222,846 from just four starts. Regular rider Robert Landry, who along with Carroll is based in Canada, will have the mount on the 5-2 morning-line favorite. It will be her first time going nine furlongs.
“When we first stepped up from sprinting to go a mile and a sixteenth, we thought this filly would stretch out," Carroll said. "She proved herself then, and now it’s just kind of another test, really. Until she does it, we don’t know for sure.
"It’s time for this filly to step up. If she has to face Rachel Alexandra, obviously, not what we want at this stage. But, you know, if she’s going to be a good horse, she’s got to be tested.”
Also having success on the front end last out was Westrock Stables’ Be Fair, trained by D. Wayne Lukas. Be Fair took them all the way to win by four lengths in the July 31 Lake George (gr. III) at Saratoga under Maragh. Julien Leparoux will be in the irons this time. Be Fair, by Exchange Rate, finished a distant fourth to Rachel Alexandra in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
Also a strong contender is C. E. C. farms’ Milwaukee Appeal, a consistent filly who has been off the board just once in 11 lifetime starts. Milwaukee Appeal has won three stakes at Woodbine dating back to November, including the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks in June. The Canadian-bred daughter of Milwaukee Brew lost by just a nose in her first try on natural dirt in the July 12 Price of Wales at Fort Erie.
“Our main objective was the Woodbine Oaks. Then, coming back in two weeks, I couldn’t believe how tough she was," said trainer Scott Fairlie, who is also based at Woodbine. "She ran her race in the Prince of Wales. Running on the dirt was never a concern.”